What Is Indigestion?
Indigestion is very commonly known as an upset stomach and is also called dyspepsia. Indigestion is when you have a pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen or the area under the ribs. This is a very common problem that afflicts most of the people at some point or the other. Indigestion occurs occasionally and most often, it is quite mild.
Indigestion is not really a disease but a set of symptoms. It may also be a symptom of an underlying problem such as gallbladder disease, ulcers or GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Indigestion usually occurs when the stomach acid comes in contact with the mucosa i.e. the protective lining of the digestive system. The acids break down the mucosa and cause inflammation and irritation and trigger the symptoms of indigestion.
When the acid in the stomach moves into the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation behind the breastbone. This is known as heartburn. Sometimes, heartburn and indigestion can occur together or on their own.
What Are The Symptoms Of Indigestion?
The symptoms of indigestion are:
- Burning in the upper abdomen or stomach.
- Passing gas and belching, abdominal pain.
- Bloating or feeling uncomfortably full.
- Vomiting and nausea, acidic taste.
- Growling stomach.
- Bringing up fluid or food from your stomach.
The symptoms of indigestion worsen when you are stressed. Indigestion can be a sign of a more serious health condition and if you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.
- Weight loss, vomiting or blood in vomit.
- Loss of appetite, severe pain in lower or upper right abdomen.
- A discomfort that may not be related to eating.
- Black and tarry stools, blood visible in the stools.
What Are The Causes Of Indigestion?
There can be several reasons for indigestion:
- Ulcers, pregnancy, stomach Infection
- GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Gastroparesis (the stomach doesn't empty properly, usually occurs in people suffering from diabetes)
- Chronic pancreatitis, stomach cancer (rare)
- A hiatus hernia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Thyroid disease
- Aspirin and painkillers like NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, oral contraceptives, estrogen, naproxen, etc., antibiotics, steroid medications
- Nitrates, thyroid medicines
- Eating very fast, eating a lot.
- Consuming foods very high in fat.
- Eating when you are very stressed.
- Drinking plenty of alcohol, smoking.
- Obesity or being overweight, stress and anxiety.
- Swallowing too much of air while eating can increase belching and bloating, which are symptoms that are associated with indigestion.
Persistent indigestion not related to any of the above factors is called non-ulcer or functional dyspepsia.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Indigestion?
- Drink water or any fluids after you finish eating your meals. Avoid drinking fluids along with your meals.
- Eat small frequent meals rather than a large meal, as the stomach does not have to work so long and so hard when you eat small meals.
- Eat slowly.
- Exercise before a meal or give a gap of at least an hour after eating before you exercise. Don’t exercise on a full stomach.
- When you sleep, keep your head slightly elevated, at least 6-inches above your feet and use pillows to prop yourself. This helps the digestive juices to flow into the intestines instead of the esophagus.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Indigestion?
- Avoid chewing your food with your mouth open or avoid talking while eating as this causes you to swallow air, which can worsen the condition of indigestion.
- Avoid eating too late in the night.
- Avoid lying down immediately after eating. Go to bed at least 3 hours after the last meal of your day.
- Avoid eating too spicy foods as they aggravate indigestion.
- Quit smoking. At least do not smoke just before or after eating as it can irritate the lining of the stomach.
- Avoid or reduce the amount of alcohol consumption, as alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and worsen the condition of indigestion.
What Are The Best Foods For Indigestion?
- Foods that are low in fat and sugar are best for indigestion such as vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, cucumbers and leafy green vegetables.
- Oatmeal, whole grain bread, and brown rice, etc. are great to absorb the stomach acid and reduces the symptoms of indigestion.
- Eat non-citrus fruits like bananas, melons, apples, and pears to reduce reflux symptoms.
- Lean meats such as seafood, chicken, fish, and turkey help to reduce the symptoms of indigestion. However, make sure you cook them using healthy methods like grilling, baking, broiling, and poaching. Avoid frying.
- Egg whites are good, avoid egg yolks as they are high in fat and may actually trigger the symptoms of indigestion.
- Choose healthy fats like walnuts, flax seeds, avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil.
What Are The Worst Foods For Indigestion?
- Avoid spicy and fried foods as they worsen the symptoms of indigestion and trigger heartburn.
- Cut down on caffeinated drinks like cola, fizzy drinks, tea, coffee, and energy drinks as they will cause the reflux symptoms to worsen.
- Avoid foods that are too acidic like citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruit, pineapples, tomatoes, etc. as they worsen the condition of indigestion.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats and high-fat foods like cakes, pastries, cookies, fries, chips, full-fat dairy, creamy salad dressings, cream sauces, fatty cuts of meat like beef, lamb, pork, etc. as they will cause nausea and worsen the problem of indigestion.
- Chocolate increases reflux due to the ingredient it contains called methylxanthine.
- Onions and garlic can worsen indigestion and cause heartburn.
What Are The Medicines For Indigestion?
What Are The Tips To Manage Indigestion?
- Make sure that you wear loose clothes. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes, as they put pressure on the stomach and cause the food to enter into the esophagus causing indigestion.
- If your indigestion is triggered by stress, then adopt methods to reduce your anxiety and stress such as meditation, relaxation, breathing and biofeedback techniques.
Here are some home remedies that can help to prevent or alleviate indigestion:
- Ginger has great anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural cure for gastrointestinal issues and heartburn. Add grated ginger to your recipes, smoothies, drink ginger tea or chew a piece of ginger to ease indigestion symptoms.
- Add 2 teaspoons of lime juice, ginger juice, and honey and mix in a glass of warm water and drink it after a heavy meal.
- Drink a glass of buttermilk with a teaspoon of roasted and ground coriander seeds. Coriander seeds have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties that can help if you have indigestion.
- Eating a teaspoonful of aniseed or fennel after a meal can provide relief from indigestion. Fennel contains estragole and fenchone that remove gas from the digestive tract and it also has antispasmodic properties.
- Having a pinch of black salt along with a teaspoon of carom seeds will provide relief. Carom seeds are great to boost the digestive system and can cure various digestive disorders.
- Add a teaspoon of roasted cumin powder in a glass of water and drink for relief from indigestion and stomach pain.
- Having herbal tea or green tea after a meal is a fantastic way to help digestion.
- Peppermint oil can help to reduce nausea and prevent intestinal spasms. Drinking peppermint tea can help to soothe your stomach if you have indigestion; however, avoid peppermint if you suffer from heartburn.
- Drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in half a cup of water can help in digestion after a heavy meal.
- Adding a spoonful of baking soda and water and drinking it can help to neutralize the stomach acid and prevents bloating and helps to relieve gas.